In 1855, Governor Isaac Stevens of the Washington Territory, negotiated a treaty with the Yakama (formerly Yakima), Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes, forcing the tribes to relinquish more than six million acres of land to the United States Government. In exchange, the tribes were promised that white miners and settlers would not be permitted to trespass on tribal lands while they awaited ratification of the treaty from the United States Senate.
That promise was broken. Gold strikes in the Colville and Fraser River areas in British Columbiaresulted inlarge groups of miners invading tribal lands. While crossing the region, they known to steal horses from the tribes and mistreat Native women.
Retaliation from some of the Yakama warriors gave way to what would become a multi-year conflict between the United States and Yakama people. The Yakama war lasted from 1855-1858. By the end of the war, the Yakama had lost 90 percent of their traditional lands, and were forced onto a reservation.
History offers little documentation of the Yakamas’ account of the war. Emily Washines wanted to change that.
Washines (Yakama/Cree/Skokomish) learned about the war as a toddler via oral histories passed down from her family. Her relative was a Yakama Treaty signer.
In addition to producing a video about Yakama women in the war, which was partially narrated in the Yakama language, and writing blogs for her website, Native Friends, she began looking for descendants of the U.S. Army combatants who fought on the other side.
When Washingtonian Glen Hamilton heard Washines’ story on the radio, he contacted her. Hamilton’s relative, Supplina Hamilton, was an Oregon Volunteer soldier in the Yakama war from 1855-1856. Washines and Hamilton exchanged stories about their relatives and communicated via email for more than a year. When their two families finally came together in person, we were there to capture it.
Washines hopes that standing side by side with historical enemies will help change how we view history and ensure that the Northwest remembers that history.